Green Party President Peter Sinkamba says the much-talked about President Edgar Lungu’s homestead in Swaziland may be legal but largely raises moral questions.
Asked to comment on the issue yesterday upon arrival from Burkina Faso where he went to attend the 4th African Greens Federation Congress, Mr. Sinkamba said the law which regulates gifts is largely targeted at Members of Parliament, Ministers and procurement officers and not the Republican President. He said there appears to be a grey area because neither the Constitution nor other statutes prescribe the sort of gifts that the President could receive.
“Take for instance MPs and Ministers, the sort of gifts they receive is prescribed under Section 4 of the Parliamentary and Ministerial (Code of Conduct) Act of 1994. The provision bars MPs and ministers from soliciting or accepting transfers of economic benefit, other than benefits of nominal value, including customary hospitality and token gifts. However, we do not have a similar code of conduct for the president,” Mr. Sinkamba said.
“Perhaps, the much-talked about ‘Nkandla’ for President Lungu in Swaziland is a wake-up call for legislators to prescribe a similar code of conduct for the Office of the President not to leave that to the Constitution,” he said.
“You see, the Constitution should l provides key principles. The nitty-gritty issues are prescribed by Acts of Parliament. For this reason, neither Articles 91 nor 92 of the Constitution do touch on issues of gifts. The only question that may arise is on principles of Executive authority per Article 90. It would be interesting to know whether when he received the offer of land in Swaziland the President did exercise Executive authority in a manner compatible with the principles of social justice and for the people’s well-being and benefit but this again is a matter of interpretation,” the Green Party leader said.
Asked to comment on the issue of a child which President Lungu is alleged to have in Swaziland, Mr. Sinkamba said conjectures and speculation are dangerous to the nation.
“During his days as President, Dr. Kaunda called it ‘Kachepa’. Those with facts should produce evidence and not feed the nation with conjectures and speculation because this is a danger to the nation. In any case, it is traditionally incorrect to discuss family issues of elders in public,” he added.
“You see, Zambia subscribes to both English law and customary law. Only traditional acts that contravene the Bill of Rights, or inconsistent with other provisions of the Constitution or other written law; or are repugnant to justice and morality are outlawed by the Constitution of Zambia. In this regard, it would be helpful to be factual on the issue and thereupon extrapolate on the act to show how it contravenes the Bill of Rights or other provision of the Constitution and law, including issues of morality,” he said.
“That is why I have always discouraged my fellow leaders to minimise or indeed stop attending traditional ceremonies or cultural events in official capacity. Depending on the cultural orientation of particular communities, so much happens. And when you are an official guest you have to participate in rituals of that community otherwise, it appears to them as if you are discourteous. Take for example we the Mambwes and Lungus of Mbala, we have a cultural event called Mutomolo.
“The climax of Mutomolo requires that the official guest leads the participants in sampling traditional brews and a variety of traditional foods. If the official guest does not ordinarily drink beer, he or she has no option but sample the traditional beer on that occasion otherwise it appears as an insult to the kinsmen. Elsewhere, the sampling is on different issues,” Mr Sinkamba said.
“I remember in the 1980s during Dr. Kaunda’s reign, one Minister of culture went to officiate at a cultural event in Eastern Province. The tradition at that event is that the official guest is given a virgin and this Minister had no option but take-away one on his back. The event hit headlines in all public media as a moral issue but Dr. Kaunda did nothing because it was a cultural issue. At the time, AIDS was not an issue. So to avoid finding oneself in a compromised situation, the remedy is to avoid going to such events in official capacities in the first place,” he added.